The sound of a trombone hovers dreamily over smooth bossa nova rhythms. After a few bars, Louise Gold joins in and sings with a sober elegance about the futility of living a life of excess that’s still missing love. Her voice sounds almost aloof, but the orchestration lets longing and trust shine through. Silvery piano runs and the casually plucked guitar give a comforting feeling of beauty—and then the trombone lets hope rise up again and again. This is the opener “If I don’t have love,” a song that is typical of Debut, the unpretentiously titled first album of LOUISE GOLD & THE QUARZ ORCHESTRA.
The band first got together in Berlin in 2008 and today is an ensemble of six, with two creatives leading the way: Louise Gold, singer and songwriter, and Hans Quarz, trombonist and arranger. They write their songs together—an interesting combo, they agree, since Hans Quarz comes from jazz and Louise Gold from pop music. Their approaches to writing are totally different, and yet the result is synergistic. To use a film metaphor: Louise writes essays in the tradition of the European film d’auteur, which she dresses in harmonious atmospheric melodies, and Hans then arranges them for the silver screen, ingeniously and with a grand gesture. The sound that the two of them create is a genre of its own: pop in cinemascope.
At first they were a quartet, playing as a swing band in Berlin’s jazz clubs. But a swing-corset quickly proved to be too tight for them and they started writing their own pieces. Their songs were recorded in a Berlin studio that exclusively uses equipment from the 1950s and 1960s, which charms music onto tape using methods from that time period: together with the entire band. That’s music in real time, nowadays a rare gift. It fits to their way of making music, they say. The music happens. Before and after there is space for thinking and considering, but while it is happening, it simply flows. After some changes in the lineup, today the Berlin Band is a set ensemble of six:
Louise Gold (Vocals)
The singer-songwriter was born in Potsdam-Babelsberg in East Germany. As a child usually lost in daydreams, she started writing small stories, which turned into songs once a guitar arrived in her parents’ home. In 1994 she went to Berlin to become a musician, to be a bohemian and sit in cafés, and to discuss philosophy with as many interesting people as she could. Louise Gold is an autodidact.
Hans Quarz (Trombone)
Just as much as he enjoys using lipstick and mascara to bring color to his face, the band’s arranger is chronically anachronistic, using a pencil to draw notes onto paper. Hans Quarz grew up as the smallest among seven siblings near the embankment of a frequently used railway line and was fascinated by the rhythmic pounding and the high-pitched whistling of the black locomotives. It was the “music” of his childhood and contributed to his career choice to become—not a train engineer, but a musician.
Thibault Falk (Piano)
Born near Lyon in France, he completed a classical course of study for piano at the Conservatoire Massenet in St. Etienne. Thibault Falk had decided to go to business school, but after a fateful car accident, in which his sports car rolled over several times and he came out of it virtually unscathed, he decided to move to Berlin and become a jazz pianist.
Florian Segelke (Guitar)
A guitarist from Hamburg, Florian Segelke was already plucking a ukulele when he was in kindergarten and dreaming of playing in a band. After initial experiments in heavy metal and rock bands in his early adolescence, he soon was drawn to jazz, especially in order to trade in long hair and straight-leg jeans for a more timeless outfit. In the Quarz Orchestra he occasionally lets go of his Hanseatic understatement and gives his solos that extra drive.
Daniel Lunkenheimer (Drums)
Enjoying his first contact with music even before he was born, Daniel Lunkenheimer listened to his father at his band rehearsals and tapped out the rhythm while still in his mother’s womb! After finishing secondary school he went to Los Angeles to study drums at the LA Music Academy and get a feeling for American jazz. In his personal life more reserved, as a drummer he offers an absolutely surprising musical sound with subtle nuances.
Hendrik Nehls (Bass)
Hendrik Nehls says that he has been playing contrabass since he can hold one. After completing a degree in business administration, he went to Shanghai and New York, where he did not work as an investment banker, but instead cruised the clubs as a jazz bassist. It was a formative time for him, since he decided against banks for good and has remained loyal to his bass.